Over the years, college costs have increased dramatically. Between 1980 and 2020, the average price of attending college increased by 169%.
With such dramatic inflation, it’s much harder to afford college without a little help and extra funding than it has been in the past.
Fortunately, there are many strategies and options to help you and your family cover the cost of tuition, books, materials, and room and board.
While finding the funds you need to attend school can be challenging—it’s not impossible.
With the help of school counselors, advisors, and college planning specialists, paying for college doesn’t have to be difficult.
Continue reading below to learn 11 strategies that will help you pay for college and how to find a college planner to guide you through the process.
How Much Does College Cost Now?
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the average cost of tuition has stabilized for now.
Currently, the average price to attend a four-year in-state public school is $27,330, while the cost of a four-year private college is around $50,770.
For out-of-state students, these costs slightly increase.
When possible, some students choose to live at home with their parents, as it can help reduce their costs of attending college.
Students enrolled in a private college can save an average of $13,620 an academic year by living at home, and students in public colleges can save around $11,950 a year.
However, these are only averages, and the actual cost of tuition, books, and room and board will vary by state and college.
11 Strategies to Pay for College
Luckily, there are many ways to pay for college without going broke. Financing college can be relatively easy if you take the time to do your research and put in a little work.
1. Choose an affordable school
One way to minimize costs is to start at a community college and then transfer to a four-year university later on.
Doing this allows you to complete your basic courses at a lower price and then transfer them to your university of choice.
2. Fill out a FAFSA
Complete The Free Application for Federal Student Aid to reduce or even cover the entire cost of college.
This is money you won’t have to pay back, so you should always complete it before loan applications.
3. Invest in a 529 plan
The most significant benefit to a 529 plan is that you can save money for college through low-risk investments. Start this account early in your academic career so you’ll have enough saved up by the time you graduate.
4. Apply for scholarships and grants
Scholarships and grants are another option for covering the cost of college, and like Financial Aid, you won’t need to pay them back.
There are numerous scholarships to apply for that may be merit-based, based on financial need, or based on essays.
The amount you can receive may vary from as little as $100 to the entire cost of your college tuition.
The trick to approval is to apply early and often. Apply for whatever you can find that you have even the slightest chance of being approved for. And, as always, complete these applications early.
5. Get a work-study position
Through work-study programs, students can take on part-time jobs to help them cover their education. Some of these jobs are on campus, while others can be off-campus.
Work study positions typically involve community service or are related to your chosen major.
6. Take out federal student loans
If you need to take out a loan, always choose a federal loan first.
Federal loans offer lower interest rates and allow for income-driven repayment and potential forgiveness if you enter a career in public service.
7. Consider private student loans
If financial aid, scholarships, and federal loans don’t meet your financial needs, you could apply for a private student loan.
While these are beneficial when you’re in need, be aware that they do come with higher interest rates—and you will be on the hook for paying them back.
8. Live off campus
As previously mentioned, students who decide to live at home rather than on campus save thousands of dollars an academic year.
If living with your parents isn’t an option, try finding a roommate that will split the cost of rent with you.
9. Cut your expenses
Consider subscriptions and monthly payments, and ask yourself if you really need them.
It’s common to forget about unused subscriptions or to continue paying for things that aren’t used often. Cancel what you can.
Also, think about any expensive habits you may have. Do you buy a large coffee every morning? If so, you could save around $80 a month just making coffee at home. Even more than that if you drink specialty drinks.
10. Reduce your number of classes
If you can reduce the number of credits you have to pay to earn your degree, you can reduce your tuition.
Most colleges have Advanced Placement (AP) or College Level Examination Program (CLEP) tests. By taking these, you can test out of college courses before you even enroll.
11. Ask your employer if they will reimburse your tuition
Many companies participate in tuition reimbursement in certain circumstances.
Some of these companies include:
- Best Buy
- FedEx Ground
- Home Depot
- Taco Bell
- T Mobile
This is not an exhaustive list, so if your company is not listed here, don’t be afraid to ask.
How a College Planner Can Help
Most students have a better chance of getting into the school of their dreams and keeping their stress levels down when they reach out to a college planner.
While parents may have their children’s best interest at heart, keeping up to date with the college application and financial aid process can be challenging.
College planning specialists stay current on trends, know what looks good on a college application, and can help students organize their thoughts and ideas onto paper.
Figuring out funding can be difficult when you don’t have it and don’t know where to find it. College planners know precisely where to look for scholarships or income-based plans based on a potential student’s situation.
Reach out to learn more about our college planning specialists and how we can help you choose the college of your dreams, complete your college applications, and find the funding you need to make it all happen.